One of the most important things to learn when trying to stick to a budget for pets, yourself, or anything else is learning to properly and effectively prioritize your costs. What do you need to survive? What can you live without?

When it comes to frugal pet parent living, there are two things that out rank all other costs – vet care and your pet’s food. The diet you feed your dog is probably the biggest factor in determining how healthy they are and so, of course it also drives how often you need to visit the vet for non-routine exams.

For many people, dog food is the one thing that hardly ever changes. Many dogs eat the same food their entire life. Even if you feed a rotational diet (which I recommend) or have the ability to feed your dog a raw diet with tons of variety, it is still something that touches your dog’s life every. single. day.

That’s why – Your dog’s food should always come first!

Why Your Dog’s Food Should Always Come First

When it comes to budgeting for your dog, figure out how much you can afford to spend on your pets each month and dedicate at least 50% of that to what your dog will be eating.

I’d also recommend putting aside another 10% to 25% into an emergency fund or using it to pay for pet insurance. Your emergency fund can be used to for emergency vet care or even emergency boarding if you suddenly need to go out of town without your pet.

What other costs are associated with having a dog?

Treats – As much as Luna might argue, these aren’t required. You can actually use some human foods, like carrots, cheese sticks, and blueberries, you might already have in your fridge rather than splurging on fancy dog treats. Or you could even try making your own dog treats!

Plus, if you buy high quality food, you can easily transform the food into high quality treats! You can use kibble and dehydrated food as bit size treats. They make perfect training treats actually!

Toys – Stimulating your dog’s mind is super important to keep them healthy all around, but there are many ways to cut costs.

Keep away from the super cute soft fluffy toys. Guess what? They are often more expensive because they KNOW you think they are cute and they might even have to pay a licensing fee for the adorable design.

Keep an eye out for great deals on the “not quite as cute” toys in the clearance bins. Think about recycling old clothes into DIY Dog Toys or pick up a few safe stuffed animals instead.

Supplements – While I give Luna and Ralph supplements I swear by, they only work because they are building on a quality diet and just supplementing where we could use a little more help or targeting specific issues. So yes, supplements are great but don’t sacrifice the base of your dog’s diet just to join the supplement craze.

Gear and Accessories – Stuff like dog beds, collars, leashes, harnesses are pretty important to have. But, if you make wise buying decisions these items will last you a long time. Do your research and invest in products that are high quality and will last!

Emergency Care – This is what your emergency fund (or pet insurance) is for. Start saving a bit now and you’ll thank yourself later.

Keep in mind that bigger dogs often cost more! Our friends at It’s Dog or Nothing actually broke it down and you can see it costs more across the board and not just on food. So before you commit to a larger breed dog, make sure your budget can also commit.

Do you budget for what you spend on your pets? What do you prioritize most?

Jessica Shipman
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